The parties of Spain’s progressive coalition government have charged the country’s conservative opposition Partido Popular (PP) party with actively working in Brussels alongside governments of the so-called “Frugal Four” nations led by the Netherlands to impose conditions on Spain’s ability to tap European Union funding for post-coronavirus economic recovery.
Members of the European Parliament from the Socialist party of President Pedro Sánchez and the spokesperson for junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos have both charged the PP with siding with conservative European governments that want to make access to the economic recovery funds for Spain, Italy and other southern nations contingent upon ongoing neo-liberal economic reforms that would be monitored by the European Union.
Unable to marshal sufficient votes in Congress during the coronavirus crisis to stop Spain’s coalition government from passing progressive legislation to reshape the country’s economy, the coalition government parties say the PP seems particularly intent on hamstringing the government’s efforts to make changes to anti-labour legislation passed by the PP’s absolute majority in Congress during the first government of former-President Mariano Rajoy in 2012.
Dolors Montserrat, the PP spokesperson in Brussels and former Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality under Rajoy from 2016-2018, has said clearly that the PP is working to ensure that “the money of the European Union can never be used to repeal labour reforms” legislated by the PP’s absolute majority in Congress over the opposition of labour unions and all opposition parties.
Esteban González Pons, Montserrat’s predecessor as spokesperson for the PP in Brussels and longtime MEP for the conservative party, has likewise said that the PP is working to ensure that the European funding will not be disbursed “so that Podemos can carry out its program, but so that private Spanish companies can carry out theirs.”
The European Parliament delegation of Spain’s Socialist party has denounced the “maneuvers by MEPs of the PP to sully the reputation and damage the image and prestige of Spain in the European institutions”. Likewise, Pablo Echenique, spokesperson for the Unidas Podemos junior partner within the coalition government, says “the PP is trying to put a spanner in the works of potential aid from Europe to enable Spain to face the social and economic crisis stemming from the coronavirus” pandemic.
Spanish labour federations have said the so-called reforms to the country’s labour laws by the PP in 2012 led to a decrease in real wages across the board and the generation of instability in the labour market, because of the growth in part-time and short-term, temporary employment contracts for workers.
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